4 dollari di vendetta / Four Dollars of Vengeance
Although the "revenge" concept is one of the most popular themes of spaghetti westerns, there are infinite variations on how it's presented. There's your usual mysterious stranger coming seemingly out of nowhere and behaving like a vigilante. There's also the ones about the guy who, thought for dead or imprisoned, comes back in disguise, to plot his revenge in surprise (think Return of Ringo). Jaime Jesús Balcázar's Four Dollars of Revenge is one in the framework of the latter.
American actor Robert Wood stars as Roy Dexter, a Civil War hero who isretiring and returning to town so he can run for governor against a man named Hamilton, also a military guy. We see him and his friend, Barry, both courting a lady named Mercedes (the beautiful Dana Ghia), who chooses Roy. Before retiring, he gets one more mission from his commander (played by genre regular Antonio Casas): to escort a shipment of confiscated Confederate gold back to Washington. However, he and his group are attacked by a gang of banditos led by a guy named Manuel (Jose Manuel Martin, another genre regular), and all are wiped out except Roy. When Roy finally returns to town, he finds that has been set up by his cousin Dave, for the theft of the gold. Dave was also in cahoots with Hamilton (who wanted him out of the governor's race), and Barry (who wants Mercedes). Roy is convicted, and sent to prison for life, but he manages to escape. He sneaks back to town disguised as a Mexican, and eventually gets his revenge on Dave, Barry, and Hamilton, and also clears his name in the process. The ending is somwhat unique, in that it's a Zorro-esque swordfight instead of the usual gunfight.
This was a pretty average, yet entertaining film. Its strongest asset was the conspiratorial plot,which was well-constructed enough to keep it interesting. Everything in this was pretty standard fare, and the acting was generally pretty good, with solid performances from Wood, Martin, and Casas. Although the plot was somewhat different, a few times I was reminded of Tessari's classic Return of Ringo, mostly because when Wood has a beard (and is disguised as a Mexican just like Gemma's Ringo), well, he looks just like him:
One quirk, probably from the budget, was the uniforms of the military prison guards - they look like 20th century Japanese or Chinese uniforms:
There wasn't anything standout in the film, as the soundtrack by Benedetto Ghiglia and Angelo Francesco Lavagnino and the cinematography from Victor Montreal are unexceptional, if competent, although as Scherp pointed out to me, it's worth mentioning that the song played over the credits starts out with a whistled theme you'd expect from a spaghetti, but slowly evolves into a more classic tune, and finally, when the choir takes over, sounds like the kind of musical themes used for fifties American cavalry westerns, a rather interesting concept. This was the version by Televista, which, at times, loks like a VHS transfer - the sound is so-so, and the colors are often quite faded and unclear. All in all, not a bad film, worth a watch if you come across it, but nothing exceptional or memorable about it, either.